The Gross Workout Mistakes You Don't Know You're Making

They're common, but they can be changed!

by Molly Hurford

Working out is great…. But it can also be a little on the gross side, and we're not even talking about the in-run urge to sprint for the nearest bathroom. From gym equipment to your post-gym hygiene, there are a lot of ways we're making ourselves acne- and virus-prone without realizing it. Here are a few of the top mistakes we make while exercising, and easy ways to keep your gear and self clean—even when it's getting steamy outside.

Mistake #1: Unwashed water bottles

Your reusable water bottle that you keep in your gym bag is only carrying water, so it doesn't need to be washed regularly, right? Unfortunately, that's not the case. One study showed that the average reusable water bottle can be home to more than 300,000 colony-forming units per square centimeter (100 times more than the average pet toy!)—and while not all bacteria is bad, 60 percent of the germs found had potential to make you sick. Fortunately, there's a pretty simple solution here: Wash your bottles after each use in hot, soapy water, and make sure you're getting every nook and cranny (tougher with cycling water bottles with the small top) clean. It's worth looking for dishwasher-safe bottles when buying new ones so cleaning is a simpler task.

Mistake #2: Uncontrollable dry shampoo buildup

If you're not getting sweaty on the regular, dry shampoo can be a lifesaver. And if you're hitting the gym at lunch, it's a great way to be back in the office and ready for your next meeting in minutes. But beware if you're using it after every. single. workout. and then not giving your hair a good wash or rinse at least every other day. Dry shampoo and sweat will build up in your roots, and if you're prone to breakouts and oily skin, you'll likely end up with acne on your hairline as a result—so spritz on the dry shampoo post-workout, but hop in the shower and rinse it out at night before bed.

Mistake #3: Sweat smell and stains that won't come out of your gear

The fix? Add two cups of white vinegar to eight cups of warm water and soak your sweat-stained gear before running it through a normal load of laundry. This helps break up the sweat odor and stain. And the next time you get sweaty in a workout, do your laundry sooner so the stains can't set. If you don't have the ability to do a daily or every-other-day load of laundry, just hop in the shower in your workout clothes to give them a quick rinse—you'll remove most of the sweat that way.

Mistake #4: Expired sports drinks and foods

You Marie Kondo'ed your closet, but what about your pantry? You might not think about protein powder, sports drink mix, or supplements expiring, but all of them do have an expiration date—and this is even more important if the package is opened. It's also worth taking a critical look at what supplements and processed recovery/workout foods you are eating. If you're taking a dozen different supplements without consulting with your doctor, a nutritionist, or a naturopath, it might be worth cutting back on the number of vitamins, minerals, and adaptogens that you're adding to your smoothie every day. You might find that a couple of them make you feel great and keep you from having a deficiency, while others are just expensive add-ins that you're in the habit of taking, but don't need.

Mistake #5: Going from spin to brunch

Those bike shorts may be walking the runways, but the combination of sweat, bacteria, and micro-tears in your skin from rubbing up against the saddle of your spin bike can have serious, painful, gross consequences. From UTIs to saddle sores (think painful pimples down there), there are a lot of gnarly things that can happen when you sit in that sweaty set of shorts. No time for a shower? At least use a wipe or wet towel to do a quick swipe, take a minute to let yourself air dry, and then toss on your second pair of leggings for the day… Or give your lady parts some more breathing room by going commando in a maxi dress.

Mistake #6: Training in a pad

Doing your training in a pad isn't just uncomfortable, it's creating an optimal environment for bacteria to breed. Even when you're not riding a bike, the combination of a warm, damp pad plus chafing or mini-cuts from your razor can lead to skin infections and breakouts. Not to mention, once it's soaked with sweat during a hard workout, a pad isn't going to be ultra-effective. Instead, opt for a Diva Cup or tampon... Or if you're having a light day, just throw on black tights and call it good. (Similarly, if you're wearing bike shorts, skip the underpants: cotton underwear has the same chafing issues as a pad does, and bike shorts are meant to be worn sans panties.)

Mistake #7: Not sanitizing post-gym

Don't freak out, but gyms are pretty gross places. According to a study done by, typical free weights have 362 times more germs than a toilet seat. And the less we say about how clean the mats in most Bikram yoga classes are, the better. Let's be blunt: Athlete's foot is never a fun fungal infection to deal with. Bring your own yoga mat when possible, and always shower ASAP after sweating through a boot camp class, maybe finishing off with a quick squirt of Purell, especially if you noticed someone in class sneezing or coughing constantly.

Mistake #8: Working out in pore-clogging makeup

First, I'll say this: If you want to wear makeup to work out, that is your right and your own goddamn business. But that said, if you're wearing a heavy foundation, expect your skin to suffer some pretty pimply consequences. Your best course of action: Swap your regular foundation for something formulated for a workout that's more breathable and oil-free, like Clinique Fit, which also offers SPF sun protection. After a workout, wash your face and re-apply, rather than gently toweling off the sweat with a blotting paper and heading back to the office. Your skin says thanks.